This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
The M3 Carl Gustav is an upgraded variant of the Army's Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or MAAWS - a reusable, recoilless shoulder-fired conventional munition.
It was first ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire.
U.S. Army Soldiers Spc. Joshua Rutledge (right) and Pfc. Austin Piette (left), both cannon crewmembers from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, perform a practice drill on how to hold, aim and fire a Carl Gustav anti-tank recoilless rifle during a combined arms live fire exercise at Tapa Training Area, Estonia, May 20, 2016. Rutledge yells, "Fire!" before pulling the trigger to shoot the Carl Gustav. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin/Released)
The latest version, or M3E1, is not only lighter, but shorter than the existing M3 but also ergonomically designed with a longer handle and better grips. These features, as well as its ability to use multiple types of rounds for firing, has led the Army to approve a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units, service statements said.
Responding to soldier feedback, Army and Saab engineers designed a titanium updated M3E1 that is more than six pounds lighter than the bulkier M3 version. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance.
The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapons portfolio, which is processing a contract to procure 1,111 M3E1s and an Urgent Material Release to field them as soon as possible, service statements said.
The new variant is "seven pounds lighter than the M3 - it can be carried safely while loaded - it has advanced fire control - and it has an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip," Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Land Domain with Saab North America, told Scout Warrior.
The M3E1 is also compatible with intelligent sighting systems for firing programmable rounds.
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade fires the M3 Carl Gustav rocket launcher at the 7th Army Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. The Carl Gustav is a lightweight, man-portable recoilless rifle. This weapon was used by the U.S. Army after World War II. The Army retired these weapons when the Dragon and TOW anti-tank guided missiles were fielded.
(U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)
The weapon includes an airburst capability with its High Explosive, or HE, round.
Army weapons developers say the airburst round is the one that is utilized most often because of its effective range. It uses a mechanical time fuse which is set prior to loading the weapon system.
Airburst rounds can be pre-programmed to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon's effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
The weapon has been used by U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Special Forces since the late-80s. In 1988, U.S. Special Forces identified a need for a shoulder-fired, recoilless rifle to replace the M67, and Saab Dynamics developed the M3, which was a likely candidate to address the need.
A coalition force member observes as a soldier shoots a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle at a range in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2013. Coalition force members train at ranges regularly to maintain weapon readiness for operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Justin Young)
Earlier versions of the anti-armor, anti-personnel, shoulder-fired multi-role weapon is 42-inches long weighs 21 pounds and can fire up to four rounds per minute.
MAAWS can utilize thermal sights to provide Soldiers with the ability to shoot at night and reach the proper range.
The MAAWS is able to fire anti-tank, flechette, illumination, enhanced armor, smoke and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, Army developers explained.
"The High Explosive Dual Purpose round gives you two different capabilities. In impact mode, the round goes off immediately as soon as it hits the target. In delay mode, the round penetrates the target and then goes off," a service official explained.